CAMBRIDGE — Owners of The Mansion at South Union and The Cambridge assisted-living facilities opened their new memory care unit with a ribbon-cutting Tuesday afternoon.
Kristen Vanderwarker, co-owner and chief operating officer of ICC Management and Consulting, the facilities’ parent company, said the company received a Special Needs Assisted Living Program Pilot Grant in 2015 through the state Medicaid Redesign Team and Department of Health to build a memory care facility that would accept Medicaid-eligible people.
ICC secured additional financing from other sources and broke ground in late 2017. However, construction was delayed for months while ICC dealt with setbacks, including emergency roof repairs at The Mansion.
The new unit, or neighborhood, has 10 rooms, each with a private bath, on one floor. Six are reserved for Medicaid-eligible people and four for private-pay residents, Vanderwarker said. The unit already has a waiting list. The only other memory care facility in upstate New York that accepts Medicaid is in Niagara County, she said.
The unit has a reception area and lounge, a country-style kitchen with tables and chairs for residents and guests, and an activities room. The dining arrangement encourages socialization, Vanderwarker said, important for people with dementia. The layout has no dead ends, so people who wander won’t become stuck, and has clear sight lines so staff can keep track of the residents.
The activities room was dedicated to author Jon Katz and his wife Maria Wulf.
George Scala, ICC’s co-owner and CEO, said residents of The Mansion and The Cambridge became fans of Katz and his therapy dogs when they attended an open house at Katz and Wulf’s Bedlam Farm in Hebron. Katz, Wulf and their dogs visited the facilities, and Katz introduced the facilities to his “Army of Good” followers online.
“When there’s a need, (Katz) lets his followers know and they send gifts to the residents,” Scala said. During the planning and construction of the memory unit, “we had a couple of pretty significant roadblocks,” he said. “Jon was always there as a supporter.”
Katz said he and his therapy dogs have gone to many nursing homes and facilities.
“This place is different,” he said, while his border collie crouched alertly on the floor. “We appreciate how you made us feel. It’s like family now.”
BBL Construction Services of Albany and its architectural arm, HCP Architects, handled the design and construction, Vanderwarker said.
The unit brings the number of beds at The Mansion to 44. ICC has another 40 beds at The Cambridge, a short distance away, for a total of 84 beds in the village.
“We offer almost every level of care possible in assisted living in New York state,” Scala said.
They have just over 60 employees and expect to add about a dozen for the memory unit, he said.
The Mansion started as a mid-19th century private home. It was owned for a while by the McClellan family, donors of the former Mary McClellan Hospital. The United Presbyterian Church acquired the property in 1954 and opened it as Meikleknox, a home for retired adults. A two-story wing was added in 1965.
After several changes of hands, ICC took over management in 2009 and bought the property in 2013, Scala said. It bought the former Cambridge Hotel the same year, renovated it, and reopened it as an assisted-living residence in 2016.
Village of Cambridge Mayor Carman Bogle was one of several local officials in attendance.
“I’m happy that it’s finally open,” she said. “It’s exciting to have this in our community.”
Kelly Slingerland attended as marketing director of the Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Hoosick Falls.
“We work a lot with The Mansion,” she said. “We do rehab. People may go next to this facility or Danforth (an assisted-care facility in Hoosick Falls). This is a great service for our entire area. We need more places like this so we can properly take care of our elderly.”
ICC’s owners and the owner of the Danforth Adult Care Center “have the same approach to elder care,” said Tim Chapman, the Danforth’s marketing director. “We help first, then we see if (our facility) is the proper level of care, then we see if there’s room. We all work as a group. We know we’ll fill the beds. It ends up being a small community.”